I went on my gap year in 2016 to Australia, New Zealand, Bali, Vietnam, Singapore and Japan. Here are some of the bleak realities of daily life that people don't tell you about: hostel living, endless bus journeys and budgeting.
The reality of living in hostels is pretty grim when travelling around Australia and New Zealand. Whilst hostels in SE Asia are affordable, luxurious and some boujee-er than hotels, the places we stayed in along the East Coast and NZ were pretty dire and at some moments quite distressing. Now this may sound like I'm being a diva, exaggerating for dramatic effect, but does the image of a 16 person dorm with no fan in 35C Australian heat sound appealing to you? Does the image of two people getting lucky after a night out in the bunk above you sound like a peaceful way to get to sleep?...or even worse to be woken up by? I think not. Unfortunately these were the standard daily occurrences in a hostel, but I guess, in retrospect they were all part of the fun and almost a traveller's rite.
This type of individual is the worst of the lot. So bad I've dedicated a separate paragraph for them. These are the people that sound like they’re about to choke in their sleep and run out of breath and die. Absolutely horrendous. Before I went travelling, I never once slept with headphones in, but whilst travelling I had to. In my sleep-deprived-state-of-anger I had little patience for these people; growing increasingly frustrated as the minutes ticked by and sleep eluded me. It took all my self-restraint to not let rip and shout at them, to not enforce my usual tactics for dealing with snorers and throw pillows at them or clap loudly until they woke up (just ask my brother). I continuously had to remind myself that it wasn't there fault, that they weren't doing it deliberately, that to be honest I probably snore too, but it didn't help. Eventually worn out by anger (a bit like the feeling after a good cry) sleep would creep over me...until the battle began the next night.
We spent many long, boring hours and days on coaches, planes, trains - something that didn't even entire my mind when planning my travels . I soon realised that emotional music was a no because this was the time when you got the chance to think, reminisce, miss and (with the help of a little Coldplay or Adele) this was when the tears inevitable would come. Although few tears were actually shed it was definitely the time when I missed my friends, family and home comforts the most. And marmite. Oh how I longed for a marmite bagel. Vegemite just doesn't do the job! I quickly realised that travelling when hungover is not fun (oi oi did someone say legend?) and definitely not something I would recommend. Initially it’s funny ha ha I’m still drunk and oops now I’m eating chicken nuggets and chips at 8:30am in a service station but then you sober up. And the hangover sweats, dry mouth and pulsating headache kick in. Not fun, especially when you're only 2 hours into a 16 hour journey.
Unfortunately, in no way, did I rock a bikini body of any kind. In fact I felt like a beached whale every time I got into my orange bikini and crusted on the beach. I kind of just went with it though and kept on telling myself (lying to myself?) that I was just gonna get back into shape when I got home. As a sports and fitness enthusiast I found not exercising to be a bit of a challenge and desperately wanted to run off my energy built up over long journeys.
There were so many odors coming out of places they shouldn’t have...nothing wet ever seemed to dry and I 100% ruined every single item of clothing I brought with me. Even after doing laundry my clothes still smelt - especially when I put them back into my rucksack that spent 2 months, before traveling, in the attic with a bag of raw fish that my dad had forgotten to throw away after a fishing trip.
These are the worst. Particularly bad for me because of my sensitive skin. Mosquitos are the devil. The sound of their persistent buzzing is enough to make me want to kill something or someone and usually resulted in me chasing it around the room like some possessed psycho until I crushed it in my hands. Oh what a feeling. Anyway all it took was one to attack and suddenly half of my leg or arm had swollen up. No exaggeration there was this one bite on my thigh with a width of probably 10cm and a length of 9. It left a slightly purple bruise on my leg. Disgusting behaviour from that mosquito. It wasn't just mosquitos that hated me though. On a bus journey in NZ a sandfly bit my lip and my lip exploded. Beside the fact that the swollen lip brought a lot of laughter and amusement to the group it actually really hurt and I looked like a bruised botox victim.
This was, like most people's, my biggest weakness. Australia and New Zealand are extortionately expensive places to visit - and especially travel. Whilst there are great, well trodden travelling routes that guarantee you'll meet some amazing people, it is extremely expensive with SE Asia and South America providing the more economically viable options, where your money goes further. This is obviously something to take into consideration when choosing your destination as it will undoubtedly effect your accommodation choices and how you spend your time. For example, the most basic of hostels were anything between $20-30 dollars a night in NZ and Aus which made a huge dent on our budget and meant that for a lot of the time we lived off bread and Vegemite. Whereas hostels in SE Asia were anything from £6-10, and a huge portion of Pho or noddles was less than £1.
Diet Coke. My Achilles heal. Way too expensive. It cost me an arm and a leg just to feed this habit. Thank God I'm not a smoker!! Of course, with my lack of self restraint I caved and bought one every time. I stooped so low once that I went crazy and bought two in one day! Not on. It’s just not on. It was moments like these that I tried to drag another friend down with me. It was usually Olivia. Being poor and having regrets is always more fun with a friend.
So bitter sweet. You’ve met some pretty cool people that you’d want as a real life full frontal friend back home but then you have to go. And it’s rare that the person/people you’ve met live in the same country. On the plus side though this does mean that you now have a bed and a friend in lots of cool places around the world.
It’s the classic, what’s your name? Where you from? How old are you? Where are traveling to next? Kind of chat that gets boring after you’ve repeated yourself 5 or 6 times. Now I get this has to happen and I’m guilty of asking the same questions but it just gets dull after a while.